How We Are Transformed
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
As a Christian who has struggled with my own chemical dependency, I’ve wrestled with two seemingly opposite viewpoints. At one extreme, attributed – whether fairly or not – to the faith I’ve grown up with, I’ve been told that once I come to God, I’m delivered from my addiction. I’m supposed to have a one-time, miraculous transformation after which I’ll never want to use drugs again. The problem of course, is that I’ve turned to God. . . and continued to struggle.
At the other extreme, is the view attributed to AA – whether fairly or not – that I’ve got a lifelong disease with which I’ll always be in conflict. I’ll always be enslaved, and I’m destined to relapse over and over. There is no one time change. There is only continual struggle. The problem of course, is that I absolutely believe that I can live free from the slavery of my addiction.
In today’s passage, Jesus provided his plan of transformation. He said that anyone who wanted to be his disciple – anyone who wanted the new life – must daily abandon self and follow him. This radical life change is something that does start at a particular moment. This is only the beginning though. Because we’re not made perfect when we come to know God, we may have this one-time experience, but if it is authentic, it will lead to a lifetime of continual transformation.
The extremes of the views I’ve wrestled with aren’t necessarily fair, but rather are accusations, meant to discredit, hurled from the opposite view. The middle-ground between the two extremes is closer to the reality that Jesus taught. As imperfect humans, we will struggle with a life-long appetite for things that are destructive to us. We don’t need to live enslaved though. We can, in coming to faith, find freedom in a new life. This is both a fantastic moment of transformation and – because we’re not made perfect – the beginning of a life-long process of growth and change.
We must make the radical life choice to follow Christ, but then daily, we must also do whatever it takes to abandon the old life to follow the new. This is how God transforms us.